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Sociologist Smelser to head behavioral sciences center
STANFORD -- Neil J. Smelser, professor of sociology at the University of California-Berkeley, will become the fifth director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, effective Sept. 1.
Smelser will succeed Philip E. Converse, who is retiring after serving as the center's director since 1989. The center, which is independent of Stanford, is located on Junipero Serra Boulevard on the Stanford campus.
Smelser was elected from more than 100 candidates after a national search, according to Robert M. Solow, chairman of the center's board of trustees. Solow is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Smelser, 63, has had a long association with the center, as a member of the board of trustees for two six-year terms from 1981 to 1993 and as chairman of the board during 1985-86. He also has chaired the center's Advisory Committee on Special Projects and served on other center-related committees.
In announcing the appointment, Solow said, "This is a match made in heaven. Neil Smelser is an eminent social scientist with an extraordinarily broad range of understanding, experience and sympathy. In addition, he knows the center as well as anyone and understands what makes it a uniquely valuable institution."
Converse called Smelser "a distinguished scholar with great interdisciplinary breadth, and he has been closely familiar with the operation of the center for many years."
The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences was created by the Ford Foundation in 1954 in the foothills overlooking the central Stanford campus. It offers one-year fellowships that enable behavioral scientists to pursue their scholarly research free from their usual university teaching and administrative duties. Since its founding, 1,808 behavioral scientists and humanists have been center fellows. Support for the fellowship program is provided by a number of public and private sources.
The first director was Ralph Tyler, who served from 1954 to 1967. He was succeeded by Meredith Wilson, 1967-75; Gardner Lindzey, 1975-89; and Philip Converse, 1989-94.
Smelser called the center "the leading American institution in fundamental research in the behavioral and social sciences."
Smelser has been a member of the faculty of the University of California-Berkeley since 1958. He earned bachelor's degrees from Harvard University in 1952 and Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1954 and a doctorate from Harvard in 1958. He is also a graduate of the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute.
Smelser is the author or co-author of numerous books and articles on a wide range of sociological and behavioral science topics. His books include Social Change in the Industrial Revolution, Theory of Collective Behavior, The Sociology of Economic Life, Essays in Sociological Explanation, Comparative Methods in the Social Sciences and, most recently, Social Paralysis and Social Change: British Working-Class Education in the 19th Century.
He is also editor of about 20 books, including (with R. Duncan Luce and Dean Gerstein) a report issued by the Committee on Basic Research in the Behavioral and Social Science and Education on The Behavioral and Social Sciences: Achievements and Opportunities.
Smelser has received many honors and awards, including election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1968, the American Philosophical Society in 1976 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1993. He is married to Sharin Smelser, who is a photographer, and they are the parents of four adult children.
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